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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cleveland series preview

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The Cubs lost a pair in Cleveland last month. Hopefully, this one goes better.

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cubs got swept in a brief two-game set at Progressive Field in May. As is the case now, the Cubs’ offense disappeared in that series, scoring just three runs.

Will things be different now? Here’s an update on Cleveland from Matt Lyons, managing editor of our SB Nation Cleveland site Covering the Corner.

Considering everything that has gone wrong for Cleveland this year, from the moment last season ended to right this very minute, I’m pretty content with where they are right now. Everything is in shambles, the once-great pitching staff is left to throwing out rookies on short rest to make starts, and now José Ramírez might be hurt, but hey they’re still only 2½ games back in their division.

Unfortunately for you, the Cubs will be facing the last remaining established pitcher Cleveland has in their rotation. Aaron Civale is rebuilt from the ground up with a small arm circle, a new cutter, fewer sinkers, and a new circle changeup. The results have been up-and-down, but when he’s on he’s on. He also gets a ton of run support for some reason — maybe the offense just likes his beard, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.

Tuesday’s pitcher, Eli Morgan, is much more of a mystery right now. His debut happened in a monsoon, so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from it. But he wasn’t much better in his second game against the Orioles either. He can find the zone, but without much separation between his high-80s/low-90s fastball and other pitches, his changeup doesn’t look as dominant as it was in the minors. If he can get it working against the Cubs, get ready for some wild late movement, though. It was dubbed a “Bugs Bunny Changeup” in the minors for the little hop and wiggle it did as it approached the plate, and it’s why he’s succeeded despite being much shorter and with a much lower velocity than your typically starting pitcher.

Offensively, Cleveland is still waiting for some breakouts in a post-Francisco Lindor world. Their two biggest sluggers, José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes, are both out as of right now, though José could be back in time for the first game. We still don’t really know how injured he is after getting hit by a pitch Friday. But they’ve also seen Amed Rosario turn into the player he was projected to be half a decade ago. He’s slashing .278/.332/.390 on the season, but he’s been their best hitter over the last month (.347/.396/.469, 139 wRC+) after a terrible start. We’re all just kind of holding our breath over here hoping this is the real Amed and all he needed was a guaranteed spot at shortstop to start flourishing.

Harold Ramirez has also been a very pleasant surprise as he continues to hammer the ball and is finally seeing those hard hits result in extra-base hits. He has three home runs in his last two games and is slashing .298/.348/.524 over the last month.

Overall, Cleveland is in a weird spot right now. They could blow out the Cubs over the next two games, or be shut out in both and I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Fun fact

The Cubs are 14-14 all-time vs. Cleveland in the regular season, 6-5 at Wrigley Field and 8-9 at Progressive Field.

This is the fourth straight time these teams have played a pair of two-game series in the regular season (2015, 2018, 2020, 2021). They’re 7-7 in the 14 games thus far since 2015.

Oh, and you might recall the Cubs are 4-3 against Cleveland in the postseason.

Probable pitching matchups

Monday: Adbert Alzolay, RHP (4-5, 4.06 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 4.25 FIP) vs. Aaron Civale, RHP (10-2, 3.48 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 4.37 FIP)

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (9-4, 4.13 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, 5.36 FIP) vs. Eli Morgan, RHP (0-1, 12.79 ERA, 2.368 WHIP, 8.85 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Prediction

Cleveland has lost five of its last eight road games, including two of three at Pittsburgh over the weekend. Generally (despite the series loss to the Marlins over the weekend) the Cubs play well at home. I like these pitching matchups, even with Cleveland’s best active pitcher starting Monday, so I’m going to call for a two-game sweep.

Up next

The Cubs have a rare Wednesday off day, then head to Los Angeles for a four-game series against the Dodgers which begins Thursday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against Cleveland?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    2
    (79 votes)
  • 37%
    1
    (63 votes)
  • 14%
    0
    (25 votes)
167 votes total Vote Now